Toys For Tots

***This article was written by Patrick Kinane. We thank Patrick for this contribution!***

I recently used my Cisco Time2Give to help families in my local community via Toys For Tots. While I was there volunteering for 7 days, I was fortunate enough to do a little of everything from receiving toys at the warehouse to sorting the toys and filling orders, even delivering toys to a family. I will elaborate on my experience, but here is a short list of cool things that happened throughout my Time2Give.

  • Working with Toys For Tots, in general, was pretty cool (details and pictures later)
  • Seeing fellow Marines I’ve not seen since 2012
  • Working alongside my new team (which we are all remote) and working with Cisco Partners from ePlus
  • Getting to know people who were delivering toys (I always asked where the toys were coming from)
  • My Toys For Tots journey
  • Delivering toys to the house of a recipient family
  • Shout out to fellow Cisco employees

Let’s go on down to the unit and dive into things.
Note: I am a Marine; I like books/blogs/reading material that has plenty of pictures… That’s right, reading material = pictures.
Other note: I promise there will be a lesson here for people working in (or aspiring to work in) tech.

General Coolness
Working with Toys For Tots (T4T), in general, was pretty cool. Just seeing the piles of toys coming and going. Getting to be a part of it. I do not have the metrics from this year as the current T4T campaign is just now coming to an end. I was able to get the metrics from 2020 though, and I expect this year’s numbers would be comparable.

  • 27,000+ children received toys from the local T4T campaign (servicing North Carolina)
  • Roughly 80,000 toys distributed
  • $86,000 raised
The basketball courts and the warehouse. That’s where all the magic happens.

Among the highlights of the campaign, for me, was when a U-Haul van filled with $28,000 worth of toys arrived:

It took a very long time to offload that truck. You cannot see all the bicycles under that massive pile of toys, but there were so many really nice bikes. I asked the driver where the toys were from, he said a family donates each year, and last year they did $22,000 worth of toys (I will revisit this later).

One of the Cisco Volunteers (Michael Dayton) started a toy drive in their neighborhood. Michael was collecting toys at his house, and then in the morning, he would bring the toys to the warehouse. Then the toys would be offloaded and sorted accordingly. Afterward, Michael worked the day helping with whatever tasks were waiting. One more thing about Michael, he is a former Marine (SFMF). The next photo shows just one of the toy hauls Michael and his neighbors collected.

Reconnecting With People
Something to note about the unit where we did T4T is that I was once a Platoon Sergeant at the same unit; with two other Sergeants (Hudson and Presslein). The uniformed picture captured the last night we were together (back in 2012). That night Hudson and I got pulled over in a taxi by 9 sheriff deputies, but that’s a topic for another time (maybe something to cover in a podcast episode of The Art of Network Engineering). The following picture is Hudson and I at our old unit, assembling bicycles for T4T.

I was also able to work with two other Marines from the old unit. One of them is Lewis, who is the CEO of SPOTR. He does a ton of great work for the community (locally and nationally) and does work with USVCHernandez is the Marine I was referring to in this tweet. This is one of the important lessons for people looking for a job in tech. She is about to graduate with a degree in cyber security, and she met cybersecurity professionals. They discussed which certificates to go for and why; furthermore, she received some excellent guidance with career development and job market trends. People also started reaching out to their networks to ask about vacant cybersecurity positions.

Team Building and Partner Relationship Building
Several people from my new team were able to join us, and working with my new team, in-person and sitting down together for lunch was huge! I believe it was an intense way for us to finish out our first year working together. It was also great that new relationships between my current team and people from my previous team were able to take root. Even more beneficial is that we worked alongside Cisco Partners from ePlus, which facilitated some Cisco Pre-sales Eng interacting with Cisco Partner Pre-sales Engineers (Brian Meade specifically – those in collab may know his name).

What’s The Story Behind The Toys?
I would get to know people who were delivering toys, and while talking with them, I would always ask about the background of the toys. Some originated from office toy drives such as a dentist or doctor office, others neighborhood toy drives, often a fire station (bring a toy and get to ride the fire truck), some veteran groups, and boxes outside local stores (Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Grocery Store, etc.).

What about the family who donated $28,000 worth of toys? The gentleman driving the U-Haul of toys is a local firefighter. He let us know the family lost their son in a tragic car accident in 2003. The family donates all those toys in honor of their son, and it is incredible how something so sad has also become something so amazing.

My Toys For Tots Journey
I joined the Marine Corps out of high school. This took me from New York to some yellow footprints, and I eventually landed in Huntsville, Alabama (for a few months to learn a job). While I was there, it was the holiday season, so we Marines helped with T4T. The best part of that experience was interfacing directly with the families. While giving a bicycle to a family, it reminded me of when I was a kid, and someone delivered toys to our place (good ole 1994). I remember getting a bike from him and wondering why, but not thinking much of it because I was psyched about the new ride. At T4T in Huntsville, I realized the deal with the toys and bike from that day back in 1994.

While on Active Duty that was my last time working with Toys For Tots; however, I joined the Marine Corps Reserve after my time on Active. This is important because Toys For Tots is a Marine Reserve initiative. So I was back to interacting with T4T during the holiday season while I was a reservist; however, I left the unit in December 2012 because I began working at Cisco in January 2013 and I wanted to put all my focus into Cisco.

While working in Cisco TAC (pre-covid) I used to work with several other veterans to help facilitate the T4T drive throughout the Cisco RTP campus. I eventually stepped away from Toys For Tots (having more kids, studying for CCIE, etc.); however, this year was my first time back since pre-covid and it was awesome!

Something I want to reiterate is, my experience and the experience of my fellow Cisco employees was made easy by Cisco providing us with Time2Give.

The Best Part
There’s a family about 20 minutes away from where I live today. The children lost their dad earlier this year, and a wife lost her husband. A mom and dad lost their youngest son, and two brothers lost their younger sibling. Assisting families during trying times is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I wish everyone who donates their time, money, food, toys, etc., could see the impact of their efforts because it is beautiful.

Shout out to fellow Cisco employees

  • Michael Dayton
  • Kenneth Onyebinachi
  • Kyle Davenport
  • Taylor Noumi
  • Bill Davis (and wife)

Check out these other people from my team who are making an impact in their communities using Cisco Time2Give

Published by The Art of Network Engineering

A podcast for network engineers focused on tools, technologies, and talent people.

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